IT SEEMS to have been Jews With Cancer week on the BBC. Inside Story: Tongue Tied (BBC1, Monday) was a documentary which followed the columnist and broadcaster John Diamond through an operation to remove a cancerous tumour in his tongue, and the subsequent treatment.

Let me declare an interest. Insofar as he has ever thought about it at all, John Diamond probably thinks that he and I are mere acquaintances who have run into each other from time to time and spoken - as Yeats put it - "polite, meaningless words". He is quite wrong. Though he does not know it, he is actually one of my best friends. In print and on radio he makes me laugh or nod. His voice - not just the corporeal thing, but the expression of his personality and intellect - is one that I lean into to catch it. I like him and admire him and would have wanted to have his children if his wife, Nigella Lawson, and a chance chromosome hadn't prevented it. He is a funny, wise man, and you don't get too many of them wandering into your shop these days.

Anyway, Diamond discovered he had cancer, and began to write about it. The writing led to an enormous reponse from readers. A TV programme on cancer was planned, with Diamond presenting it. But the illness, or rather its treatment, put paid to that so, instead, JD became the subject of a documentary.

Imagine Nigel Kennedy having his fiddling hand amputated, or Alan Shearer losing his right foot. Diamond was becoming one of the most distinctive radio broadcasters in Britain. His voice was (and may be again) a rolling one, alternating between a basso profundo and a high inflection, all with a residual Jewish London accent so familiar to me because it was shared by my late father. And Diamond also had John Peel's rare knack for almost whispering into the studio microphone, as though it were the listener's ear.

And then he was told (and we saw him being told) by the specialist that the operation he was about to undergo would mean that "your speech will be affected slightly". Which meant, "perhaps after months and months of speech therapy we can get you something that sounds like a voice".

What followed on screen was Diamond's Calvary. There was the near-death experience, the ghastliness of the tracheal tube, the act of sucking tea through the nose (while, this being Diamond, humming the tune to "a nice cup of tea"), the relentless yet arbitrary nature of cancer, and the terrible, exhausting battle to conquer it .

Some have said this week that the TV film was not as good as the book that Diamond has written on the subject, nor as true. It is certainly the case that the book is a rather wonderful thing. But I do think that the film captured some truths of its own about Diamond, his family, and how we deal with illness. And some of these truths are visual: the pallor, the black rings round the eyes, the sight and sound of children, and the tears.

And you needed to see the man to notice something else, something that he won't thank me for mentioning. John Diamond ill is still very funny, and still wise, and - if we're lucky - when well will broadcast to us again and for a long time. But he has now added a touch of nobility. Of course (as he would protest, angrily), he would rather have had no cancer and no nobility. But that wasn't the choice.

My second Jew with cancer was Spoonface Steinberg (BBC2, Tuesday), a television adaptation of Lee Hall's remarkable radio play about a seven- year-old autistic girl with terminal leukaemia (we sure know how to have fun in this column). For telly the spoken monologue was preserved, and was read by one young actor, while the screen portrayed a second, silent one, as well as equally silent members of her family, nurses and doctors.

Hall's original is a wonderful piece. He gets inside the mind of a clever little girl (those who have said that a child could not think this way do not know many bright seven-year-old girls very intimately), using her naive intelligence to ask big questions about living and dying. As a radio production it has passed into legend.

But what about as television? Given the power of the monologue, do the images add or detract from the voice? On radio Spoonface speaks directly to you, unmediated. In my opinion, the only way to have duplicated this on TV would have been for the actor to speak into the camera as well (in the manner of an Alan Bennett monologue). Doing this with Patricia Routledge is one thing, however. Doing it with a child would have been nearly impossible.

The alternative was, I'm afraid, both distancing and distracting. The pictures, for instance, in the peculiar slideshow in Spoonface's room were irritating, rather than magical manifestations of Spoonface's mind. They dampened the spark, rather than reflecting or magnifying it. So I would still recommend readers to buy the audio-tape.

Let us stick with illness, but move on to Gentiles. When I was a nipper I used to love all the medical stuff in Dr Finlay's Casebook. Tannochbrae was a display case for public health in a bygone era. Would the doctor be allowed to close the village pump because of typhus? Could he persuade the antediluvian Dr Snoddy of the dangers of cholera?

I am sorry to say that, in this week's four hours of Bramwell (ITV, Monday and Thursday), however, such issues have taken a back seat while the eponymous Edwardian woman doctor (Gemma Redgrave) gets on with the business of deciding which man she wants to spend the rest of her doctoring days with. Will she marry the unromantic, wise, intelligent one, who looks like a frog with a moustache and is Scottish, or will she elope with the sexy, dashing, gleaming-toothed soldier, who is gallant, stupid, brutal and pathetically brief?

In fact the only anatomically complex issue raised in all 240 minutes was when Bramwell was having a clothed knee-trembler with the aforesaid galloping major (all raised petticoats and pumping breeches), and one wondered when exactly knickers and underpants were invented.

However, the tortured medical suffragette was not the "must-watch" programme of the week, according to separate revelations from my daughters' two grandmothers on Sunday. Both demanded to be home in time for the closing episode of Deborah Moggach's rude tale of adultery and, er more adultery and, um, still more adultery, Close Relations (BBC1, Sunday).

The previous chunk of this absorbing drama had, of course, contained an immortal sentence. "Ve must know each udder and love each udder," the mad, libidinous, foreign wife had said to her husband's sane, level-headed lover - setting the scene for a TV three-in-a-bed writhe that has become as famous in the annals of screen bare-bottery as Dervla Kirwan's al fresco grope'n'grunt with Ronald Pickup in Melvyn Bragg's A Time to Dance, or the pallid heaving buttocks in Dennis Potter's Singing Detective.

It was no idle boast. For, sure enough, in this series we have known each udder. In fact, udders have never been so well known. And some of them looked perfectly lovable. So it was particularly interesting to discover in last week's Radio Times that Close Relations was no product of the author's fevered imagination, but a lightly fictionalised account of Ms Moggach's own family circumstances.

How grateful the Moggach clan will be to their famous relative for spilling the beans must be open to question. Especially when you consider that this is what happened to the fictional characters in the space of a year: Grandpa Gordon left Grandma Dorothy to take up with April (come she will); wimpy, anguished Stephen left his mad, libidinous foreign wife (whose name escapes me, but was probably Viagra) for Gordon and Dorothy's daughter, Prue; slimy Robert left their eldest daughter Louise for Deirdra; the third (barmy) daughter, Maddy, left lesbian lover Erin because Erin was too much like a man; Stephen left Prue to go back to Viagra; Mrs Shopkeeper left Mr Shopkeeper, presumably because everyone else was doing it; Deirdra left Robert; and - finally - Grandpa Gordon left everyone to go and abide with the Lord. Meanwhile, granddaughter Imogen lost her maidenhead to a two-timing blacksmith and became pregnant.

Interestingly, all agreed that the blacksmith was the true villain of the piece, presumably because he didn't leave anybody, which is what (in Deborah Moggach's world) you are clearly supposed to do. By all means cheat, but having cheated, choose. It's called serial monogamy, and its moral superiority over the old, hypocritical code is difficult to fathom. But I'm a man, and I would say that.

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